Massive major spoilers for last night’s episode, so if you haven’t watched it yet (and if you haven’t, why the hell not? I got home from the bar at 1 a.m. and I’VE watched it, you slackers) don’t click through.
It occurs to me that all of the television I’ve really loved, all of it, has been about the family you make, rather than the one you’re born to, and the way such bonds are forged in adversity and sometimes can’t survive the passing of the crisis. Season Two Buffy. Season Two West Wing. Every last goddamn minute of Babylon 5. Parts of Firefly (although watching it again has made me realize what huge gaping weaknesses it has and why it failed).
West Wing, for example, is all about people who have a job that’s more than a job, who spend all their days and nights with these other scarily intelligent, hyperactively engaged human beings who, if they had met them under any other circumstances, they wouldn’t have given the time of day to, much less grown to love. And make no mistake, they love each other like I’ve almost never seen people love each other, to the point of doing anythng, everything, breaking up their own lives to live for one another, sniping and snapping and jumping down one another’s throats and in the end, it’s all they have, this crazy little “Partridge family on political crack,” as a friend of mine called it once. If there was only one question I could ask Aaron Sorkin it would be this: Where was it, this place that you worked that was like this? Because it’s too vivid, too real, that feeling. I’ve been lucky enough to know that kind of place, those kinds of people, once in my life, and I recognize it when I see it again.
And crisis forces it, sometimes, brotherhood (sisterhood, whateverhood), and when the crisis is over and you’re back to the day to day living it can’t be sustained. A lot of people hate the fifth season of Babylon 5, but I love it, love it in that it’s just so true, the way a family like that splits and splinters because the war they had to fight was over and even some of them who came back … didn’t. And some of them hate each other, and can’t get over what they had to do, but even they know that no matter what happened, they did what they set out to do, and that’s enough to keep them grounded.
I saw a lot of that in “Home,” last night. What I love about this show is the way the characters talk about one another, the way Tyrol will say, meaning it, “I love the old man.” In the scene between Adama and Dualla, what killed me was that not only was she loyal to him, loyal enough to disregard rank for a moment, to reach out to him. But he was loyal back. That’s the rarest of things in a superior, someone who is loyal to the people subordinate, who loves them as much as they love him. The world is falling apart around them, the world has ended, and he’s finally realizing that, and realizing these people are all he has, and some of them might not be people at all.
What’s love, what’s loyalty, when you don’t even know what’s human anymore?